Newsletter Volume 1, Number 12

February 16, 2006

Newsletter Archive

From my Diary

Subjects: Hypertrophy Specific Training second year. Adjusting your exercise schedule when you don't feel well.

Last week, my routine had two setbacks. First, the gym was closed two days because of a major religious festival. About 200,000 visitors converged on Penang from all over northern Malaysia to celebrate a Hindu holy day. A mile of food stalls lined both sides of the narrow road leading from near our place, past the Hindu temple, almost to the gates of the Botanical Gardens where we usually walk. We could have squeezed through the crowds to get to the gardens. But did we trust ourselves to pass all the food stalls? We did not!

The second setback followed two days eating out, not at food stalls, but in proper restaurants. Malaysia, unlike many other tropical countries, has water that is drinkable straight from the tap. So there is less gastro-intestinal infection here than in most tropical countries. However, this is the hottest part of the year and the most risky time. I'm not certain, but I think I picked up a bug from something I ate. Because I have lived so long in the tropics, I did not become acutely ill, but felt poorly for a few days.

With both setbacks, we got in only six hours of exercise all week, including only two weight-training sessions.
  • Strength Training: Everyone reacts differently when feeling poorly. So far, I have not had any difficulty working with weights when I have been feeling not quite normal. But I did only two weight-training sessions because the gym was closed. This week, I just slowed down a little, resting between sets, which I don't normally do when I work with the light weights of the 15RM mini-cycle. For more details about this style of training, see Hypertrophy Specific Training (HST).

  • Aerobic Exercises: For the last few months, I have been doing about 7 hours per week of light aerobics, with heart rate around 70% of the maximum for my age. Recently, I added interval training on the ski machine, based on the following sequence: 6 minute warming up, 1 minute 85% of maximum heart rate, 2 minutes at 70% heart rate, repeating this slow-fast cycle for 24 minutes, finishing with 5 minutes cooling down. After a few sessions of interval training, I discovered that I could run again, not fast or for long, but it was really running, not just jogging. On Monday, I transferred to a treadmill that has a switch that allows the trainee to alternate between two programs. I set up the machine to walk at 3.5 mph (6 km/h) and run at 6 miles per hour (10 km/h). Altogether, I ran for five one-minute periods and felt OK afterwards. For the reasons I mention below, I am going to wait for another week before trying this again.

  • Rehabilitation Versus Maintenance: Your goal may be to progress far beyond rehabilitation. Or you might already have surpassed your previous peak in physical fitness, strength and body compostition. Or you may be more concerned about rehabilitation, as I am.

    Whatever our long-term goals, what we should avoid is over-concern with short-term setbacks. Whatever the setback, whether caused by increased work load, travel, illness, or family obligations, we need to find a way to cope. One way to do this is to work out a maintenance schedule. This is a temporary schedule that allows you to pause without gaining or losing what you have achieved so far. Your maintenance schedule will depend on both your long-term goals and where you are at the moment.

    My program is a rehabilitation program. I am trying to restore muscle mass and function lost through neglect over many decades, including skeletal muscle, abdominal muscles, and the heart muscle. So both my long-term program and my maintenance program have weight-training, abs exercises, and aerobics.

    I have made a lot of progress during the last 19 months, but expect that rehabilitation will take at least two years and perhaps four years more. I plan to lose only two more pounds weight and to reduce body fat from 21% to between 12% and 15% by building muscle. When rehabilitation is achieved, I will switch to maintenance, with little emphasis on strength progression and fat loss. I will concentrate on maintaining constant weight and constant fat percentage. Those are modest and reasonable long-term goals, consistent with maintaining and improving health.

    From experience, I estimate that I need one hour exercise per day for long-term maintenance, about what studies have confirmed. For short periods of a few weeks, four hours per week is probably enough to prevent complete deconditioning. I would aim to split the time equally between weight training and moderately vigorous aerobics, at about 70% of my maximum heart rate (70% of 220-AGE).

    This week, because I am almost back to normal, I will aim for six hours, split equally between moderate weight training and aerobics.

Tips of the Week

  • Carob as a chocolate substitute: Until today, I had never tasted carob. But I have not been able to find Hershey's or Rapunzel's cocoa in the shops and I refuse to use the sugary versions with high cocoa butter content. So I tried carob flour, made from a legume that originated in the Near East thousands of years ago. Carob is naturally sweet, contains no caffeine or oxalic acid (unlike cocoa), is low in sodium and high in potassium and calcium. I just mixed the powder with a little cold water to make a paste and added hot water. Yes, it does taste a lot like cocoa, not quite the same, but close enough.

  • Have a nice cup of tea. At our place, we make tea the traditional way, with loose tea (not teabags) and in a pot, traditional tea, brewed the way the British used to make it, the way they made it in the days of the Boston Tea Party. I made it that way for my mom when we lived in Toronto before the Second World War. I can't remember which I learned first, to read or make tea.

    Have you never used teabags? Yes, I confess to using teabags in hotels and when visiting people who don't have a single teapot anywhere. But I stick to the old-fashioned way of using teabags. You boil the water, put the teabag in the cup, weigh down the teabag with a big spoon, and pour the boiling water over the teabag. You wait for two minutes and throw the teabag away. I have also made tea in a teapot using teabags instead of loose tea. The main problem with these methods is that the tea packed in teabags is the lowest quality tea, although some brands are better than others.

    A third way to make tea is to use an espresso machine. What! Yes, I wash the coffee holder and strainer and also the cup to remove the smell and taste of coffee. Then I add two teaspoons of loose tea or open two teabags and empty them into the strainer. Next I assemble the espresso machine and run it as if I were making coffee. Presto! The quick blast of water and steam extracts more of the essential oils and less tannin than what you get if you make tea in a cup with a teabag added to lukewarm water. Try it.

  • Low in Fat or Just Low in Saturated Fat: A recent study was widely reported as showing that a low-fat diet neither promotes heart health nor protects against cancer. This upset a lot of people who ought to know better, as indicated by the following headlines:

    Low-Fat Diet with Fruit, Veggies, Grains Does NOT Reduce Heart, Breast Cancer or Colon Cancer Risks

    Study findings send shock waves through health care community

    Source: Senior Journal
    Fortunately, enough of the information in the original article is available online so you can check for yourself. Medscape. Here I mention only a few highlights:
    Two accompanying editorials in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) note the limitations of this trial, particularly that the diet studied is not consistent with current guidelines for a heart-healthy diet.
    To clarify, when this study was mounted in the 1990's, the view was that all dietary fat was suspect. Now we know that too much saturated fats and practically all transfats are bad for the heart. Unsaturated fat are mostly heart healthy. So even before this study was completed, we already knew that it could not tell us much about the effect of fats, because it did not adequately discriminate between saturated and unsaturated fats.

    Wait! Some aspects of the study were worse, coming under the heading of non-compliance. The women in the study did not follow the guidelines as closely as they were supposed to:
    Dietary intake was significantly lower in total fat (by 10.7% at year 1 to 8.1% in year 6) in the intervention group. [A subject with 40% fat intake at the start, reduced intake to 35.7% in year 1 and to 36.8% in year 6. The study protocol set the target fat level at 20%.].

    Intake of vegetables and fruits increased by a mean of 1 serving daily and grain intake increased by 0.5 servings daily in the intervention group.
    The authors wrote:
    "One explanation for a lack of intervention effect on colorectal cancer could be that the intervention did not achieve a large enough difference between the intervention and comparison groups.... Whether greater adherence, intervention of longer duration, or initiation of change at an earlier age would influence colorectal cancer risk remain unanswered questions."
    In other words, "If the subjects don't change their eating habits much, don't expect much benefit."

    Those of you who have already read my e-book How to Lower Cholesterol Naturally, Without Drugs (free to subscribers) will know that I do not advocate a low-fat diet. I base my position on research by Dr Robert Superko, that indicates some people have a genetic variation that increases risk for artery when fat levels are lowered to 20% of calories. Most recent research focuses on the dangers of excess saturated fats and all trans fats. (Opinions vary about limits for saturated fat. Dr Superko says no more than 6% of diet; Dean Ornish says not more than 3%.)

    Ray Sahelian, M.D., has much harsher things to say about the recent research on fats and he says it better than I can. Physician Formulas.

  • Don't neglect the Psoas. The psoas muscles, pronounced so-ass, "lie behind the abdominal contents, running from the lumbar (lower) spine to the inner thighs near the hip joints (lesser trochanters); the abdominal muscles lie in front of the abdominal contents, running from the lower borders of the ribs (with the rectus muscles as high as the nipples) to the frontal lines of the pelvis." Somatics. To some extent the psoas muscles work in opposition to the abdominal muscles, like the front (biceps) and rear (triceps) muscles of the upper arm.

    For balanced development, we usually try to give equal emphasis to opposing muscles. Thus, we should emphasize equally the psoas and abdominals. But what does gym lore tell us? "Disable the psoas by lying on your back with your knees supported while you are doing crunches."

    I'm not going to contradict this instruction, because isolating the abs muscles is not a bad thing in itself. But if you do disable the psoas for crunches, you need to do psoas-specific exercises to avoid back pain resulting from upsetting the balance between psoas and abs.

    I do one exercise that develops the psoas muscles, Knee raises and one that develops both the psoas and the abs, called the reverse situp. In the reverse, situp, the trainee sits with the feet secured in some way and leans back about 30°. The reverse situp is much safer than the conventional situp, which is not effective for developing abs and risks back injury.


How a depressed obese mother of five shed 76 pounds of fat to become fit, trim and cheerful. An exclusive interview with Maureen "Moe" Jeanson—how she learned to burn the fat, losing 76 pounds of fat from February to February 2006. Moe's Journey revisited.


  • Tom Venuto answers the question: Will I be able to find all the foods and supplements needed to follow your Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle program? Tom's answer.

Coming Soon

  • Sarcopenia, age-related muscle loss, may be the main cause of decline in metabolic rate with age. Thus, muscle loss with age may be sufficient to make middle-aged people overweight.

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Bye until next week...
Fred Colbourne It's never too late!
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